A. Buy an existing home, repair and renovate it to make it as Green and Sustainable as you can... with all the architectural modifications and solar/wind power you could want.
B. Buy an empty plot of land and build a brand new structure... with the same amount of solar/wind power.
So both properties are:
- The same price in terms of total cost of home regardless of whether you renovate or build fresh.
- The same time requirements to either repair/renovate or build fresh.
- The same amount of solar/wind power being generated.
I even made A and B both red so that people wouldn't be more likely to pick their favourite colour.
So really what I am asking is:
Is it better to repair a home or build a new one, assuming the end costs/time requirements are the same?
Well, lets consider some issues.
1. 1200 square feet minimum.
These days many townships in Ontario won't let you build a new home unless it has at least 1200 square feet because then they get to charge you more property taxes. So if you build a new place, it will have to be at least 1200 square feet.
In contrast if you buy an older place and renovate it, if the original structure is under 1200 square feet you will end up paying less property taxes.
So that is a point in favour of buying an older structure that is smaller and repairing it.
2. Less Surprises
Sometimes when you buy an older home you find out things that the previous owner didn't warn you about. Like how the basement floods every Spring. Or how the electrical lines in the building are faulty and are just waiting to cause a fire.
In contrast if you are building fresh, you should not be surprised by anything related to the previous owner of the property - unless they were burying dead bodies in the ground or something like that.
So that is a point in favour of building something new.
3. Previous Owners Leave Things Behind
Sometimes when a previous owner sells a home they leave some of their things behind which you gain as a bonus. Like an old canoe. Or tools. Or valuables they forgot were in a locked box in the basement. Some things might be useful, some garbage, some even valuable like a collection of old Elvis records you sell on eBay for hundreds, and perhaps even a few antiques worth keeping.
Point for the old home, repair and renovate.
4. Everything is Brand New
If you build fresh, everything you install in the new building is also probably going to be brand new. New sinks, new toilets, new fireplace, etc. You shouldn't have to worry about repairs to various items for a long time and your maintenance costs should be less.
Point for the fresh build.
5. Rustic Appeal, Weathered Look
Some people really like it when a building looks older and more rustic/weathered.
Point for the older building.
6. Shiny and New
Some people really like it when a building is brand new and everything is shiny and fresh.
Point for the new building.
7. Newer buildings are often more energy efficient... or are they???
Maybe. Not always. Generally building codes these days require modern buildings to be more energy efficient, so it is more or less a requirement depending on where you live. Will it really be more energy efficient? Maybe. Assuming you are trying your best to live off grid, you should really be investing in insulation anyway so that should be something that is neutral regardless of whether you buy an old place and install more insulation, or build a new place and install equivalent insulation.
Point for neither.
So who won?
Well if you kept track, both got 3 points and tied.
But you may have noticed, 5 and 6 are basically a matter of personal taste and style. So that is the real answer you are probably looking for.
Are you the type of person who prefers:
Whichever you decide, that is the one probably best for you.
Then it just becomes a question of how important the other factors I mentioned actually matter to you. You might decide for example that price is the real sticking point and might try to find your cheapest available option. Good luck with that. Or you might decide you would rather pay more for a place that was already renovated by someone else, and you are hoping that by paying extra you will be able to be more lazy about repairs/etc. It is just more pros and cons and back to personal preference.
Individual properties might also have features you particularly like too, like a river or stream, access to a lakefront, fishing holes, a hill or cliff with a view, rock formations, local wildlife, etc.